OHIO (AP) — LeBron James was at home with his three kids when news broke that a 5-month-old girl had been killed in a drive-by shooting — the third fatal shooting of a child in Cleveland in the past month.
Aavielle Wakefield’s death moved James to speak out on social media, where he used the platform to make an immediate plea for calm and change in the wake of more senseless violence.
On Friday, the NBA star went further, stating his support for stricter gun laws.
“There’s no room for guns.” James said.
James, who has never shied away from stating his opinion on political issues, spoke after practice, a day after another tragedy in Cleveland as well as the mass shooting at an Oregon community college, where a gunman killed at least nine people and wounded others when he opened fire on campus.
James decried both situations and took a strong stance on gun control, a divisive issue in the U.S.
“Four kids under the age of five or six years old have been shot and killed or very badly injured,” James said. “There’s no room for that. There’s no room for guns, first of all, but then for violence toward kids or anybody. I see the news go across my phone and I’m sitting there in front of my three kids, so it automatically just hit me.
“It’s not just in Cleveland, it’s the whole nation that goes through this as well. We all hurt from it.”
Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams broke down in tears while asking for the public’s help in finding the shooter of Wakefield, who was in a car with her mother and grandmother. A 3-year-old boy and 5-year-old boy have also been killed since Sept. 4.
James didn’t hear President Barack Obama’s impassioned speech Thursday following the Oregon massacre. Obama grimly denounced the latest shooting, saying it had become too commonplace and calling the U.S. “the only advanced country on earth that sees these kinds of mass shootings every few months.”
James didn’t specify what changes he would like to see made to gun laws, but echoed the president’s sentiments.
“I know what I see. I know how I feel,” he said. “Obviously you’re not going to be able to take every gun out. I don’t know how you can do that. There’s so many around now, today. But if there’s some stipulations behind it or some penalties, some big time penalties or rules or regulations about carrying firearms, legal or illegal, people will second-guess themselves.”
This isn’t the first time James has taken a public stance. When he played in Miami, James led a protest by the Heat players, who wore hooded sweatshirts for a photo shoot to protest the death of teenager Trayvon Martin. Last season, he wore an “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirt in New York after Eric Garner was killed while being arrested.
James knows his voice and status can help him have a positive impact. He believes some of the work he’s doing through programs associated with the LeBron James Family Foundation are helping curb behavior.
“Part of the education program we’re doing is keeping those kids off the street and keeping their situations that’s maybe bad and turning them into good,” he said. “I think what we’re doing is controlling some of the violence. Some of these kids might be in violent situations, violent areas or violent homes and we’re trying to keep them away from that.”
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